My War on the Electric Bill


In February of 2009, we received a $642 electric bill.  Based on this, I declared WAR on the electric bill.  The first major action I took was the installation of a geothermal heat pump.  A complete list of actions taken are shown in the chart near the bottom of the page.


After the geothermal heat pump was installed I went straight over to my electric company, Baldwin EMC, and asked for a three year history of my electrical usage.

Here is a graph showing the average three years before the installation as well as the first year after.  The geothermal heat pump was installed in April of 2010.  The graph of "After Geothermal" begins June of 2010.  The effect of the geothermal heat pump seems significant, but not dramatic (although February of 2011 was a nice bill).  It is noteworthy that July and August of 2010, for which the bills were received August and September, were the hottest ones anyone around here can remember.  For what it is worth, the geothermal heat pump seems to save the most money and perform the best relative to the old heat pump in extreme hot and extreme cold.  It absolutely works like a champ even if it does not save all that much money. 




Here is our monthly bill for the past five years.  As you can see, the geothermal heat pump in April 2010 had a significant effect, especially in the peak usage months - both winter and summer.



This is a graph of our home's average kilowatt hour usage per day.


Here is a graph of the average daily KWH usage by year.  The reason 2010 is so high is it had the monster bill.


Our price for electricity varies a bit.  Here is a graph of what our electric company, Baldwin EMC, has charged us for residential service in South Alabama over the past five years.


You may be wondering if we have changed any of our usage habits.  We have not.  If we are hot, we run the A/C so the house is perfectly comfortable.  If we are cold, we run the heat just as hard.  I leave the lights on too much.  We have three refrigerators because we want three refrigerators.   I understand that there are additional savings available if I would simply change my behavior but I have not done that and I don't plan to.  The difference in the usage graphs is solely a result of hardware changes.

Our 2014 usage is higher than 2013.  We added a freezer and a wine cooler.  Additionally we used the floor heater (electrical resistance) more in 2013 than we had been previously.  Hopefully we will be able to convert this to geothermal as well but right now we can't afford it.

Payback:  I get questions about whether it was worth it.  As of January, 2014, we've spent about $17,000 so far on the energy saving improvements.  It was offset by about $3,900 in tax credits.   It is a little early to tell for sure, but after finding a few tax calculators online, we seem to be averaging about $1,200 in annual savings.  That computes to an 11 year payback, not a particularly good ROI.  




Diary of the Electric Bill War

6/1/2009 Started replacing light bulbs with compact florescents when they burned out.Previous CFs didn't seem to last long but the new ones I was getting at Sam's Club were GE brand and they seemed to last much longer. My best estimate, assuming each light is on three hours per day is that each incandescent bulb replaced with a CF will save $5.80 per year or 48 cents per month.

2/26/2009   Received $642.00 power bill from Baldwin EMC.
Decided to declare war on the electrical bill.

12/1/2009   Started drilling injection wells for Geothermal Heat pump.

3/15/2010   Vacuumed the coils in kitchen refrigerator.  They were filthy

4/10/2010   $11,000 - Geothermal Heat Pump installed on primary HVAC unit.
This unit handles 90 to 95% of HVAC for the house.

5/26/2010   Received Kill-A-Watt from
Tested computer monitors and they had less than one watt standby currents.They pull 60 watts when running.Our two primary computers had 100 and 110 watt idle draw and interestingly, both had higher standby current than idle by about 20 watts. I tinkered with the Display/Screen Saver/Power settings and BIOS until I got both of them to go into a low draw standby mode.One drew two watts and the other drew four. Also, got all screens to go to sleep properly after 10 minutes of inactivity.Measured Outside small refigerator.It was at $78.42 annually.  We defrosted it and that cut it down but not as much as I thought - $70.00 annually.

5/18/2010 CF conversion status update: 11 of the 24 lights we primarily use in the house are converted to CF

5/27/2010   Garage refrigerator measured $5.03 per month and the coils were shockingly dirty.  It looked like a solid covering of hair over them.  I cleaned it and it only improved to $4.80 per month.  Shocking.

2/1/2011   CF conversion status update: 11 of the 24 lights we primarily use in the house are converted to CF

5/6/2011   I got tired of the R30 light bulbs not wearing out and replaced 10 perfectly good incandescent bulbs.  24 of the 24 lights we primarily use are now converted to CF.  The next most used 11 lights were converted as well so now our 33 most used bulbs are CFs.

8/11/2011   $1800 - Two solar power attic fans installed.  My measurements show only a 5 degree difference in attic temps.  My attic was already pretty well vented with soffett and ridget vents.

12/20/2011  $995 - Installed variable speed pool pump.  It has a pulse width modulated speed controller.  Based on what I read, I should have done this first.

1/10/2012  I replaced six incandecent lights in the primary bathroom with compact florescents.  I was going to wait until they burned out but they just wouldn't wear out.

1/15/2012   $300 - Replaced small patio refrigerator with Energy Star Koolatron Wine Cooler.  I measured electricity usage with Kill-A-Watt.  The old refrigerator (20 years old) was using $6.00 a month.  The new one is using.$4.65 per month.  Sheesh - a 405 month payback!

1/20/2012   $1400 - Replaced primary hot water heater with GE GeoSpring heat pump model.  Our hot water heaters are in our attic so the heat pump should have a very easy time of it up there.   We have two hot water heaters.  The heat pump hot water heater is the one the cold water feeds to, then from it to a conventional hot water heater, then to the faucets.  With this arrangement, the heat pump water heater does all the heavy lifting.  A word to anybody who puts one in - be sure you have a good drain for the condensation line.  I messed up some ceiling drywall before I understood this.

December - February 2012 - We had a really mild winter.  The savings should be considered overstated for this period.

February 2012, We added a chest type freezer.  The estimated electricity usage, according to the tag, was $34 per year. 

May 2012 - We replaced a small refrigerator (that was using $4 per month) on our back porch with an alleged, "Energy Star" wine cooler.   It is one of those cutesy ones with a glass front door.  Condensation says on  the glass day and night so there is no doubt that thing is wasting electricity.  According to the Kill-A-Watt meter it is using about $4 per month so I guess it isn't worth replacing it.  Frustrating though.

June 2012 - The refrigerator we have in the garage that we use for cokes and beer was showing $10 per month on the Kill-A-Watt.  The coils were dirty again.  I blew them off as best I could with compressed air and a leaf blower.  Now it is reading $6 per month.

August 2012 - the garage refrigerator peaked at $6.90 per month.

December 2012 to February 2013 - We have pex in our slab but currently no way to heat it except with an electric resistance heater.  The plan is to eventually heat them with a geothermal heat pump water heater.  I got tired of cold floors and decided to heat them with expensive resistance heat even though it costs more.  And it did.


NEXT: One Hose Well Drilling